WALDEN, John (d.1417), of London and Tottenham, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1414

Family and Education

bro. of Roger Walden (d.1406), abp. of Canterbury (1397-9). m. (1) by June 1397, Joan; (2) by Dec. 1405, Idonea (d.1425), da. and h. of Richard Pettigrew (d.1377), of London, ironmonger, and wid. of John Rote (d.1389), of London, skinner and alderman, s.p.1

Offices Held

High bailiff of Guînes and victualler of Guînes castle, Picardy 25 Oct. 1390-1 Feb. 1397.2

Jt. keeper, with Roger Walden, of Porchester castle and town, Hants 1 Feb. 1397-3 Nov. 1399.

Collector of customs, Southampton 17 Feb. 1397-31 May 1398.

Commr. of inquiry, Southampton May 1397 (export of wool), Norf., Suff., Essex, Cambs. Sept. 1397 (estates of Sir William Castleacre), Mdx. Jan. 1412 (persons liable for taxation); to make an arrest, Norf., Suff. Essex, Cambs. by Dec. 1397,3 Herts. Jan. 1414 (lollards at large); kiddles, Mdx. July 1416.

J.p. Hants 12 Nov. 1397-9, Cambs. 16 Jan. 1405-13 Feb. 1407, Mdx. 12 July 1411-d.

Sheriff, Essex and Herts. 4 Nov. 1409-20 Nov. 1410, Cambs. and Hunts. 3 Nov. 1412-6 Nov. 1413.


The belief that Archbishop Walden and his brother, the subject of this biography, came from humble—even artisan—stock springs largely from the highly partisan writing of contemporary chroniclers hostile to Richard II and his adherents. Contemptuous asides dismissing the archbishop as the illiterate son of a butcher from Saffron Walden in Essex may, in all probability, have been little more than propaganda spread by clerics jealous of Walden’s remarkable success, but tantalizingly little is known about the origins of the two men, whose careers were closely connected throughout their lives.4 We can, however, be reasonably sure that their inheritance was indeed modest, comprising no more than a small amount of land in the Essex village of Clavering, and that the rest of their extensive possessions were acquired by purchase as they became more prosperous. John himself first appears in August 1386, when, together with Andrew Newport*, Richard Clitheroe I* (who later executed the archbishop’s will) and Thomas Haxey, he was owed a debt of £300 by a Lincolnshire man. His friendship with Newport grew over the years: they were involved in each other’s property transactions, and both prospered as a result of their attachment to Roger Walden, who was already making his way as a crown servant. John Walden and Newport appear to have accompanied Roger to Calais not long after his appointment as treasurer there (an office which he held from 1387 to 1392, safely out of the reach of the Lords Appellant), and it looks very much as if Roger used his influence to have his brother made high bailiff of Guînes.5

In France and England alike, John and Roger constantly acted together, in an official as well as a private capacity. At a purely routine level they were in great demand as co-feoffees-to-uses and witnesses to conveyances of land.6 On joining Richard II’s Irish expedition of 1394, John understandably left Roger to supervise his affairs at home; and when, two years later, his somewhat dubious activities as a purveyor of victuals at Calais were being investigated in the Exchequer, it was almost certainly to his brother (who had by then become treasurer of England) that he turned for a writ of supersedeas to halt the proceedings. The precise date of John’s entry into the royal household as an esquire of the body to Richard II is not now known, although he was in service by February 1397, when he exchanged the bailiwick of Guînes for the joint keepership of Porchester castle, which Roger Walden, the previous keeper, arranged to share with him in survivorship. Royal letters of pardon were issued to him in July 1398, presumably to protect him from the consequences of any further official inquiries.7

That John Walden’s growing importance as a landowner was also largely dependent upon the meteoric rise of his ambitious brother goes without question; and it was through him that he established himself among the gentry of the south-east. There is no clear evidence of his occupying much property outside London before 1397, at which point he and Roger rented a tenement near St. Botolph’s priory, and had perhaps already taken on the joint lease for 60 years of two ‘places’ in the close of St. Bartholomew’s, Smithfield, where John and his grandmother were living when Henry of Bolingbroke seized the throne. John’s first wife, Joan, had tenements of her own in the City as well, but it was during the period which saw the dramatic triumph of the court party and Roger’s elevation to the see of Canterbury (in November 1397) that his social and financial position really improved.8 In association with his brother (who evidently provided the money) he purchased the manor of Tottenham with widespread appurtenances in other parts of Middlesex, and the manors of Dedham, Bonhunt and Elmdon, together with the advowson of Rewenthall and Bulmer, in Essex. By the terms of Roger’s will, which was drawn up in December 1405, he and his second wife, Idonea, were to enjoy a life interest in the manor of Tottenham, with an option to buy outright most of the other properties for £1,000. His co-executor, Richard Scott, subsequently accused him of refusing to pay any more than half this sum, and then of withholding the money, while at the same time retaining other premises which had been earmarked for the settlement of Roger’s debts. It is now impossible to establish the truth of these charges, or of others alleging that he sold off goods from his late brother’s estate to pay his own creditors almost £100 in cash. Whether honestly or dishonestly come by, it is, however, clear that these holdings made up most of the landed income of at least £90 a year, outside London, upon which John was taxed in 1412.9 His two other manors of Grantchester and Barton in Cambridgeshire seem to have been bought without Roger’s direct assistance, although the latter may have had a hand in arranging John’s second marriage to the widow of a wealthy London alderman. This put him in possession of dwellings in Fleet Street and the parish of St. Benedict Shorhog, worth over £26 in annual rents.10 The two brothers probably augmented their incomes through other property transactions for which no evidence now survives. Their sale of the manor and park of Byfleet, Surrey, for £100 to Sir William Court is on record because in December 1401 Henry IV agreed to pardon them for acquiring the land from William, duke of Gueldres, without a royal licence, but there may have been many other occasions during the previous reign when such offences were tacitly ignored. At some point after his consecration, in January 1398, the archbishop used his brother to represent him before Richard II in a matter of ‘sept comitees contenante lour soumission au dit nostre seigneur’, and he probably gave him other, more delicate, commissions to execute on his behalf.11

The strength of their mutual commitment to Richard II made it inevitable that both John and Roger Walden would suffer a serious reversal in fortune after the Lancastrian usurpation; and to begin with their disgrace seemed complete. Not only was Roger’s archiepiscopal register destroyed, but hangings bearing his coat of arms were torn from the walls of Lambeth palace and thrown out through the windows (an incident gleefully described by Walden’s enemy, Adam of Usk). At least one of John’s Middlesex manors was despoiled by Henry IV’s supporters, and the system of labour services appears to have been seriously disrupted on another for the same reason. None the less, despite the initial reaction against them, the brothers managed to regain at least some of their former influence: while Roger survived a period of humiliation and imprisonment to become bishop of London, in 1405, John was able to establish himself as a prominent figure in the government of the home counties. By then he was held in sufficient regard to be made a j.p. for Cambridgeshire, and he showed his acceptance of the new regime by advancing a loan of £10 to the government later in the year. Commissions and official appointments subsequently came his way at regular intervals, but not always without incident. In August 1410, towards the end of his term as sheriff of Essex, he narrowly escaped with his life while attempting to arrest certain malefactors at Waltham abbey. The mob which turned on him was said to be 200 strong, and it forced him to surrender his prisoners.12 If John Twyford of London is to be believed, Walden himself was no less capable of physical violence when it suited his purpose. In October 1412 he began litigation against Twyford in the court of the mayor of London for the recovery of a bond in £100 which the defendant claimed he had been forced to enter when threatened with death ‘by the said John and his covin’. Although the court found in Walden’s favour, a commission was later set up to correct any errors of judgement in the case, so the debt may have remained unpaid. John and Roger Walden had both acted as feoffees of property which had passed through Twyford’s hands, and it seems likely that John brought the suit in his capacity as an executor (however underhand) of his late brother’s will. His attempt to recover the keepership of Porchester castle, which he had lost in 1399, was also doomed to failure, in spite of his persistence in pursuing the matter at law.13

Surprisingly, in view of his earlier career, Walden is not known to have sat in Parliament until November 1414, when he was returned as a shire knight for Middlesex, along with his friend, Thomas Charlton, with whom he often acted as a trustee. He had previously attended the county elections of 1411, and did so again in 1415, serving continuously throughout this period on the local bench. Although his last years were spent outside London, Walden maintained close links with the City. From 1392 onwards, if not before, he was a churchwarden of St. Peter’s, West Cheap; and in about 1401 he gained admittance to the popular Trinity Guild at St. Botolph’s church, Aldersgate. The influential mercer, John Woodcock*, made him a beneficiary of his will, and he was also on friendly terms with Richard Brigge, the Lancaster King of Arms, who chose him to be one of his executors. Walden was often called upon to act as a trustee and mainpernor, since at all times, whether in or out of favour, he maintained a close circle of friends. Chief among them was John Shorditch II*, who joined with him, in 1406, in helping to administer the late Bishop Walden’s estate, and who himself died in the following year, naming John among his executors.14

John Walden died on 23 Nov. 1417, and was buried at St. Bartholomew’s, Smithfield, where his brother had set up a chantry chapel and may well himself have been buried. Since he left no children, he was able to make generous bequests for the good of the souls of Roger Walden and his former royal master, Richard II. His widow, Idonea, obtained livery of her dower in the following February, and clung on tenaciously to the property which her late brother-in-law had purchased in London, despite the protests of his surviving executors. In April 1421 she received a papal indult to make use of a portable altar, and by the time of her own death, four years later, she had made further arrangements for the upkeep of the Walden family chantry.15 The reversion of John Walden’s Middlesex estates had already been purchased by John Gedney*, one of his erstwhile trustees; his land in the City reverted to his two nephews; and the rest of his property in Cambridgeshire was bought by Henry Somer*, the chancellor of the Exchequer, under whose more able supervision it prospered as never before.16

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 105/35, 137/7, 148/27; PCC 6 Luffenham; Guildhall Lib. London 9171/1, f. 183v; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 394; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 227.
  • 2. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 163.
  • 3. CIMisc. vi. 191, 193, 211.
  • 4. J. Trokelowe, Chron. ed. Riley, 213, 417; Adam of Usk, Chron. ed. Thompson, 37-38.
  • 5. CCR, 1385-9, pp. 63, 252; 1389-92, p. 301; 1302-6, p. 237; DNB, xx. 481.
  • 6. Corporation of London RO, hr 124/63; VCH Berks. iv. 300; CAD, iii. D1118, 1122-3, 1157, 1255; iv. A7888; Westminster Abbey muns. 3852-3, 3858-60.
  • 7. CPR, 1391-6, p. 475; 1396-9, p. 64; CCR, 1392-6, p. 506; C67/31 m. 9.
  • 8. CCR, 1396-9, p. 129; Corporation of London RO, hr 115/109; Chron. Traison et Mort Ric. II ed. Williams, 75; Stowe Ch. 624.
  • 9. Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 227; C138/28/48; CP25(1)151/81/154-5, 164, 291/63/45; VCH Mdx. v. 326; VCH Cambs. v. 163, 201; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 228, 422-3, 427; 1399-1402, pp. 227-8; CPR, 1416-22, p. 151; 1422-9, p. 386; Feudal Aids, vi. 442, 491; CAD, iv. A9903; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 227, 266; Add. Chs. 40543-5; Stowe Ch. 624.
  • 10. Corporation of London RO, hr 105/35, 115/109, 137/7, 89, 96, 138/31, 148/27; CPR, 1408-13, p. 76; CCR, 1409-13, p. 415; ARch. Jnl. xliv. 63.
  • 11. CPR, 1401-5, p. 30; SC1/43/48.
  • 12. VCH Mdx. v. 334; J.H. Wylie, Hen IV, iii. 127 n. 4; CPR, 1408-13, pp. 285-6; Adam of Usk, 37-38.
  • 13. Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 15; CCR, 1413-19, p. 455; CPR, 1413-16, p. 37; C81/357/7493 A and B.
  • 14. C143/421/6; C219/10/6, 11/7; Add. 37664, f. 12v; Guildhall Lib. 9171/2, f. 109v; Reg. Chichele, ii. 187; Corporation of London RO, hr 140/61; R. Gough, Sep. Mons. ii (pt.2), 19.
  • 15. Reg. Chichele, ii. 135-6; C138/28/48; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 462-3; CPL, vii. 333; Corporation of London RO, hr 155/72; Stowe Ch. 624; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 227.
  • 16. VCH Mdx. v. 326; VCH Cambs. v. 163, 201, 205; C138/28/48.